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September 9, 1995, 11:00 pm

Source: Chicago Tribune

Greg Kot, Tribune Rock ritic.. Chicago Tribune (pre-1997 Fulltext). Chicago, Ill.: Sep 10, 1995. pg. 5

Here a score of the more pressing matters in pop music this fall, when record companines try even harder than usual to sell us the Next Big Thing, just in time for holiday gift-giving

1. Have Smashing Pumpkins gone nuts?

Billy Corgan, singer-guitarist of the Chicago band, readily acknowledges that th idea of putting out a double CD of new music in 1995 is preposterous, a "total donosaur-rock self-indulgence."

In recent years, double albums by some of rock's superstars-Bruce Springsteen, Guns N' Roses, Michael Jackson-have been commercial flops. Yet, chances are good that the Pumpkins' two-disc opus "Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness," due in stores Oct. 24, won't become the modern-rock equivalent of "Heaven's Gate." Instead, it seems destined to become one of the biggest-selling releases in Chicago pop history.

Why? The Pumpkins are a band on the upswing? Their audience has been primed by a multiplatinum 1993 release "Siamese Dream," and a headlining slot on Lollapalooza '94. Now Corgan says the band has stopped the bickering that nearly killed it two years ago. "We've learned to become friends," he says.

Taking a break in the Chicago Recording Co. studio on Ohio Street while recording "Melon Collie," Corgan, drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, guitarist James Iha and bassist D'Arcy agree that the tension that characterized the "Siamese Dream," sessions, when Corgan played virtually all the instruments in his quest for "unattainable perfection," has dissipated.

"No high drama this time," Iha says. In its place has come ambitious musicmaking in which the band pulls the neo-psychedelic sound of its past into the 90's by using synthesizers, samplers, sequencers and drum machines.

If the sound is broader, Corgan says he is narrowing the focus of his lyrics. "The album will be tatally misunderstood by plus 30 rock critics," Corgan says with rueful certainty. "I want to speak to the audience that's really listening, and that's people between the ages of 14 and 24."

Corgan clearly regards "Melon Collie" as a culminating statement from his band. "I'll be 30 in two years when this album hs run its course," he says. "I see this as the end of a creative cycle, at least for the way this band was originally conceived. This will be a good way to go out."

2. Will "Rock`n' Roll," PBS five night, 10 part series, really do its subject justice?

The series premieres Sept. 24, and aspires to do for rock what Ken Burns' epic PBS documentaries did for the Civil War and baseball. The good news is that the chief consultant on the series is critic Robert Palmer, whose "Deep Blues" book and movie are among the most incisive studies of the genre. The bad news is that television has been a notoriously inadequate medium in the past for capturing rock's crazed essence.

3. How far will the surviving Beatles take their "reunion"?

That's the big question as Paul McCartney George Harrison and Ringo Starr have finally joined forces to record "new" music, even going so far as to overdub the recorded voice of the late John Lennon. For the first time in decades, rumors about a possible Beatles reunion tour-- which wouldn't come before 1996 aren't being dismissed out of hand by insiders. Nor are they being confirmed. Only one thing is certain: A blizzard of previously unreleased Beatles music will be released in coming months.

As many as three double-album or six single-album releases are being discussed for this fall. These packages will include a mix of vintage material and two new Beatles songs recorded this year.

4. Is the artist formerly known as Prince once again in royal form?

The diminutive soul man is desperately in need of a career overhaul, and seems to realize it. He has done a great job of hyping "The Gold Experi- ence" album, which finally arrives in stores Sept. 26, and there's talk of a rare North American tour to follow

5. What will the Deadheads do now that Jerry's gone?

Garcia's recent death has forced the Grateful Dead to cancel its fall tour. But there will be no shortage of Dead-related product, with "Hundred Year Hall," a live double album recorded in 1972 in Germany, due out Sept. 26. There also will be a collection of the Dead's favorite cover tunes, per- formed by the original artists, out Oct. 17, titled " The Music Never Stopped: Roots of the Grateful Dead." Also due in the next few months is Garcia's childhood autobiography , "Harrington Street." And, in the theaters this fall: "Tie Died: Rock`n'Roll's Most Deadicated Fans," a documentary about the bands faithful Deadheads.

6. Will Cypress Hill become the next rap supergroup

With crowd-pleasing appearances at Woodstock II and Lollapalooza '95 and two mulitiplatimum albums behind them, the Hispanic hip-hoppers from Los Angeles are poised for a breakthrough with the release of "III" on Oct.24

7. Now that he has proven he can sell records by the millions, will Lenny Kravitz finally lose those silly bell bottoms?

Kravitz's new release, "Circus," due Tuesday, is designed to establish the singer as more than just a nostalgia act for the grunge era. But Kravitz has become so expert at ripping off the music of John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix and Marvin Gaye, it's hard to imagine him as an original.

8. Will fortune finally smile on Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks?

Nearly 30 years after they abandoned the "Smile" album amid pressure to produce music more compatible with the Beach Boys' sun-and-fun past, Beach Boys auteur Wilson and Parks are collaborating again, with Parks writing and Wilson singing on "Orange Crate Art," due Oct. 24.

9. What can Green Day, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Ministry do for encores?

Their previous records were career-making multimillion sellers. Now the Chili Peppers return with "One Hot Minute" on Tuesday, and Ministry with "Filth Pig" on Oct. 10. Green Day's as- yet-untitled fourth album is also due Oct. 10.

10. Isn't the live album dead yet?

That long-discredited artifact of the Peter Frampton '70s is back with a vengeance. There will be a glut of concert souvenirs in the fall, led by the Rolling Stones, who recently recorded a bunch of their classic songs on acoustic instruments at rehearsals and in small concert halls with producer Don Was. Also, Steely Dan's first release since 1980 will be a concert recording from its 1992 and '93 reunion tours. Concert recordings are also expected from Bonnie Raitt Rickie Lee Jones, Leo Kottke, the Saints, the Indigo Girls, the Pretenders, the Cowboy Junkles and Basia, among others.

11. Who will win the battle of the pop divas?

Madonna, Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson and Whitney Houston all have albums coming out. The Houston, Madonna and Jackson discs are greatest-hits collections; the Jackson disc, "Decade 1986/1996," due Oct. 10, will include 14 hits plus two new tracks, "Runaway" and "Twenty Foreplay" Carey's album, "Daydream," is due Oct. 3 and includes 12 new songs with more of an R&B flavor than past outings. The first single, "Fantasy." is a lush ballad that will be available in stores Tuesday.

12. Will Gloria Estefan take a Spanish album to the top of the pop charts?

After the post-mortem crossover success of Hispanic superstar Selena, the way may have been paved for Estefan's "Abriendo Puertas," a collection of Christmas songs sung entirely in Spanish, due Sept. 26. It's being described as less of a holiday record than an homage to Latin rhythm and musicianship, and may be Estefan's most profound acknowledgment of her heritage.

13. Does Randy Newman write better tunes than the devil?

His 11-years-in-the-making musical comedy, "Faust," holds the answer. The revered pop composer has enlisted a high-profile cast, including James Taylor, Don Henley, Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt and Elton John, to sing on the disc, due Sept. 19. Newman, of course plays the sinister lead role.

14. Will anyone care about Michael Jackson's "HIStory" double CD come Christmas?

Epic is investing as much as $30 million in a marketing blitz to make sure consumers keep it No. 1 on their shopping lists. "HIStory" has been slipping down the charts, though the recent R. Kelly-written hit, "You Are Not Alone," could resurrect Jackson's plans for world conquest.

15. Will his new project with Brian Eno and a tour with Nine Inch Nails revive David Bowie?

Bowie's "Outside" album, due Sept. 26, reunites him with producer-keyboardist Eno, his late-'70s collaborator, and it's a hauntingly textured, conceptual work. Bowie's tour with Nine Inch Nails, which arrives at the World on Oct 1, is clearly designed to establish the erstwhile Thin White Duke with the kids, using the fashionably angst-ridden Trent Reznor as the bait.

16. Will Urge Overkill finish what Neil Diamond started?

The Chicago trio finally broke into the Top 40 last year with a cover of Diamond's "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon," featured in the movie "Pulp Fiction." But it remains to be seen whether the band's dark and scruffy new album, "Exit the Dragon," due Sept. 26, has the goods to go gold.

17. Will a five-CD box set affirm the Velvet Underground's place as the most influential rock band in history?

"Peel Slowly and See," due Sept. 26, compiles the group's groundbreaking music and reveals that the bands of the '9Os owe more to the Velvets than they do the slightly more famous Beatles.

18. Is there anybody out there who hasn't had a tribute album yet?

If so, please go away. This fall, Leonard Cohen gets the all-star tribute treatment for the second time, while homages to Carole King's "Tapestry" album, Marvin Gaye and XTC are also in the pipeline.

19. Is America ready for Oasis?

With "What's the Story (Morning Glory)," due Oct. 3, the bratty quartet will try to accomplish what only one other British guitar band (Bush) has been able to do in recent years: break through on, the pop charts across the pond.

20. How big is "Friends" ?

Very big, and getting bigger. An entire album of "Friends"-inspired music is due out in the next few weeks, with contributions from Hootie and the Blowfish, Lou Reed, Toad the Wet Sprocket, k.d. lang, R.E.M., and - God help us- "Friends" actress Lisa Kudrow.
PHOTOS 4 GRAPHICS 3; Caption: PHOTO: (David Bowie.) PHOTO: (Beatles.) PHOTO (color): (Red peppers.) PHOTO (color): Singer-guitarist Billy Corgen (from left), bassis D'Arcy, drummer Jimmy Chamberlin and guitarist James Iha of Smashing Pumpkins. GRAPHICS (color): Illustrations by David Cowles.

Credit: Greg Kot